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McGrail plans to run for elections office seat

November 15, 2013
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

City Councilmember Kevin McGrail may have lost in his bid to retain his seat in District 6, but that doesn't mean he plans to stay away from public office forever.

Soon after his defeat to Rick Williams on Tuesday, McGrail said he plans to run for the office of Supervisor of Elections, currently held by Sharon Harrington, who welcomes the challenge.

McGrail said he had the solutions to the problems that plagued the last two election days.

McGrail, as well as many voters, were outraged with the way the 2012 presidential election was handled, when voters had to wait as long as six hours to get to the polls.

"That was without a doubt the worst election I've been through in my 57 years of life," McGrail said. "With the result of this election, there's nothing standing in the way of me making my decision."

In one area downtown, where two precincts shared the same building, there was a three-hour wait for one, while in the other people were getting in and out in minutes.

The long waits resulted in some elderly and other ill people keeling over in the hot sun, in need of medical attention, McGrail said.

McGrail said the solution is to name a "poll captain" who will check in with the supervisor in real time to respond to those issues.

"She had 17 scanning machines sitting in the garage that she could've rolled out. If she had real-time responded, it would have solved the problem," McGrail said.

Harrington refuted that claim, saying 10 of the 15 backup scanning machines were rolled out to the busiest precincts, with five left over in case of a complete breakdown of a scanner.

Harrington added that she already has poll clerks who check in from the precincts, as well as an election-day monitoring system.

"We also have people on the ground called field techs who, if we run out of supplies, can be called and they can get them," Harrington said.

McGrail said Harrington is also partly responsible for such horrendous turnouts at the polls for local elections, with this year's elections drawing 17 percent, which was actually quite good by recent standards.

McGrail said his solution to the plan is to move the local elections back to even-numbered years like they were before 2000, which, he said, even Harrington knows is the real solution.

That would raise the minimum percentages to 40 to 45 percent for gubernatorial elections and to about 80 percent for presidential elections, McGrail said, as well as save taxpayers money tens of thousands of dollars.

"If you want to see what the people of Cape Coral really think, ask them during a presidential election," McGrail said. "I know they changed that because of the size of the ballot, but there are best practices used all over the country. If they can figure it out, so can we."

Harrington said the solution is to hold all-mail elections, which would have to be approved by the state legislature.

"The rate for mail ballots would be much higher. Across the country where they do it, they're higher than going to the polls," Harrington said.

As far as even-numbered year elections, she said the ballots would be too cumbersome. The 2012 election had a four-page ballot without local races to muddle things further by forcing different ballots in different cities and even wards.

"How complicated do you want the ballot to be that can create more problems in the tabulation process," Harrington said. "What if the city decided to have 12 charter amendments? There are reasons we do what we do."

As far as participation, Harrington said her job is to hold the elections, not to encourage people to vote.

"I keep telling the cities to advertise it, publicize it and get the candidates motivated. You can't make people vote, otherwise it wouldn't be a democratic country," Harrington said.

McGrail added they should follow Collier County's lead and have voters take a number so they could run errands and come back if a long wait is expected.

"There are at least 50 better ways to do things in terms of customer service," McGrail said. "They have never been addressed. She runs a presidential election the same way she runs a local election."

McGrail mulled running for Tammy Hall's vacant seat on the BOCC following resignation after he legal troubles.

McGrail said he expects to declare his interest in running sometime in 2015 for the seat that comes up in 2016.

"I welcome the challenge. We've had good elections since 2004, we only had one bad one," Harrington said. "In 2008 we had the highest turnout of any county in the state. We just had too many variables in 2012 that were out of my control."



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